White House Promotes Workforce Data

by Rachel Zinn
July 22, 2014

The Obama Administration today released an action plan for improving federally-funded job training programs, including commitments to more effectively measure participants’ employment outcomes and use data to align training with labor market demands.

These principles are central to the WDQC reform agenda, and “Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity” contains the following specific plans supported by WDQC’s recommendations for administrative action.

•  Requiring employment measures for all training programs. The following programs, totaling nearly $3 billion in annual funding, will either begin tracking or substantially improve their measurement of employment outcomes:  Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Employment & Training; Veterans Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment; Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration; Youth ChalleNGe; and the Department of Justice re-entry and training program.

•  Improving training provider reporting. The U.S. Department of Labor will no longer issue waivers that allow a state to extend the period of initial eligibility for training providers under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Without this waiver, training providers must report employment outcomes for all the students they serve to remain eligible for WIOA funding. The action plan says that, “Making such information available will allow prospective trainees to make better choices about which programs to attend and help states determine which programs are of sufficiently high quality to receive training funds."

•  Coordinated federal technical assistance on data sharing. The U.S. Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services will advise states on ways to legally link data to measure employment outcomes.

•  Expanding use of labor market information. Federal grant competitions may require applicants, when appropriate, to demonstrate that they are using labor market information to determine which occupations and industries need workers, and use this data to design programs and inform students about their career prospects. The White House also is working with the private sector to promote development of tools that use real-time labor market data to help guide jobseekers’ training and career decisions. 

The Obama Administration’s action plan is the culmination of a government-wide review of job training programs led by Vice President Joseph Biden. Its release coincides with the President’s signing of WIOA.

The action plan cites another federal report, “What Works in Job Training: A Synthesis of the Evidence” as a basis for its strategies. That report notes the need for better evidence about several aspects of job training, including long-term outcomes and the value of different types of credentials. It recommends improving access to federal and state data, including wage records and linked data available through state longitudinal data systems, and support for the dissemination and use of labor market information.